Why maintaining the sales push in good times as well as bad is important
Updated: Jan 15
When things are going well and the business is busy, it is perhaps easy to focus solely on servicing existing customers to the exclusion of all else, especially at a time when those placing orders appear to be demanding ever more for their money. While such behaviours are understandable, there are inherent dangers in adopting what is ultimately a short-sighted approach. For many products and services, irrespective of industry sector, customers come to rely heavily on such offerings and the expertise that suppliers provide. This of course is entirely reasonable and to be expected; however, the reality is that those needs can evolve over time and this may lead to lost customers or sales as those making buying decisions decide to look elsewhere.
So, why are customers or clients lost?
The answer is that many factors can come into play including changing needs. They include:
1. A change in the decision maker who brings with him or her their own preferences and relationships
2. The departure of key employees whose customers choose to follow them
3. The introduction of a superior offering in the marketplace (cost, quality or both
4. The demise or downturn in the fortunes of a customer or client
5. The aggressive pursuit of your customers by a competitor(s) who may be prepared to undercut on price in order to land the contract or work
The above are just a few examples of where revenues may be lost at some future point.
So, given such threats to customer numbers and ongoing revenue streams are likely to exist, it is important to ensure that client relationships remain strong and that there is also a healthy sales pipeline in place. Such a pipeline, if built effectively, should naturally yield opportunities irrespective of whether the business is proactively pursuing new customers or not. Of course, regular engagement and the cultivation of relationships will maximise potential; however, typically there are ways that the central marketing function can assist with this that require minimum effort from the wider organisation.
So, what is a sales pipeline?
A sales pipeline can take different forms and its nature and value will vary depending on a number of factors; however, it essentially refers to a list of potential clients or targets that a business has built up over time that could potentially lead to new sales in due course. The origination of such a pipeline may in part be due to a general awareness of an organisation and what it offers; but, it will also depend on the establishment of individual relationships that have been built over time. It is true to say that new sales opportunities can occur simply through awareness and reputation but often, personal engagement is the final ingredient that needs to be added before things can be moved on to a more formal footing.
More sophisticated sales led organisations begin the sales lead generation process and the establishment of pipelines by identifying a potential target list before proceeding to qualify them. The qualification process itself is a means by which the potential value of a customer is assessed and equally importantly, the likelihood that work (sales) can be won if time and effort is invested in trying to do so.
Once such lead qualification has occurred and “possible” versus “unlikely” customers have been filtered in or out, then there is a clear process to follow with a logical set of steps to be taken in order to drive the new business process. Such activity takes time and effort with success rates variable depending on the nature of the product, service and industry this relates to. This brings us back to the initial point, that the business development effort should continue even when things are going well as there can be a significant delay in replacing lost orders in a downturn.
Even in situations where customers or clients are “sticky” i.e. unlikely to change allegiance or reduce the flow of orders and work placed, there is significant benefit to be had from continuous customer growth. Ultimately, increased revenue streams help to cover key overheads and provide funds for investment in the business (research and development, infrastructure, people, etc.), and this helps ensure that the business remains “fit for purpose “in future years.